Barrett says Intel may be at 'bottom of the trough'

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The Independent Online

Craig Barrett, Intel's president and chief executive officer, said he believed that the world's biggest chipmaker will have an upswing in its business in the second half of this year.

"Our position is we perceive we're kind of at a stable bottom of this trough, and we're looking for some seasonality in the second half, which should give some uptick," Mr Barrett said yesterday, on a visit to London.

Intel, which sells chips to the desktop PC market, has been hit hard by slowing economic growth as well and the revaluation sparked by the dot.com collapse. But Mr Barrett stressed that the outcome for the next six months was still all speculation.

"I don't think anyone has any hard data other than we're kind of bouncing along what we perceive to be the bottom," he said. "I'm hoping we have an upturn in the late third quarter, fourth quarter, but that's a hope. That's not a prediction."

Intel is in a closed period before releasing its second-quarter figures, said Mr Barrett, who was in London as part of a nine-day tour of Europe and the Middle East.

He said he did not believe the European technology sector was being as heavily affected as is the US by the slowdown. "If the US has pneumonia, Europe has the sniffles," he said, partly because Europe did not get as involved as the US in the "dot.com mania".

"I'm not an economist," he said. "My optimism is what I see going on in Europe in terms of business levels, in terms of the optimism of business people towards investment in IT.... PC sales are forecasted to be up in Europe year upon year; compared to that, PC sales have most recently been forecasted in the States to be sequentially down for the first time."

Despite the difficult times, Mr Barrett said he thought there was still more growth in the PC market. "PCs have been [declared] dead several times in our lifetime. But the PC is really Darwinian," he said, noting that every time it had been threatened, the PC "really responded" to the challenge.

However, he added his reservations about third-generation mobile phone services yesterday by saying he thought 3G was still some way off. Mobile phone operators say they could launch initial 3G services in the middle of next year, but many analysts suspect they will not appear until 2003 or 2004.

Mr Barrett said he too suspected that 3G was "a bit further out than most people think". Conversely, he said he believed that the GPRS mobile phone service known as 2.5G had a "bright future".

British Telecommunications and Vodafone both recently launched their GPRS services to consumers in the UK. GPRS, which offers an always-on internet connection, is widely seen as the stepping stone to 3G.

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